Jennifer Grey from The Old Painted Cottage is one of the best we’ve ever come across who turns discarded old items into beautiful works of art. Her shop includes some of the most unique pieces of decor you’ll find anywhere, and if you like antiques, then you won’t be disappointed.
Jennifer has been doing this longer than most, and her experience in this area makes her opinion one to listen to. She boldly quit her job and now does what she loves for a living, and you can’t help but admire that.
We’re very pleased and honored to have Jennifer here, so please take a moment to read this interview and then head on over to The Old Painted Cottage blog and her shop to check out what she has to offer. Let’s get to it!
1. Hi Jennifer, welcome to Decor Medley and thank you for joining us. Please tell everyone a little bit about The Old Painted Cottage, along with anything else you’d like to promote.
Thank you for having me. I’m honored to be part of your interview series.
I began blogging close to 4 years ago, back when home decor blogs were less prevalent. At that time it seemed there were mostly “mommy blogs,” and although we don’t have any children, I was both intrigued and inspired by their photography and thought provoking writing. So I decided to take the plunge and began my own blog. I was unsure what direction I would take with it, let alone what heck I was doing, but I’ve never let that stop me before and I haven’t looked back since.
Aside from blogging, I have an online shop, TheOldPaintedCottage.com, where I sell unique goods and curious finds. There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about re-purposing and newly adoring old things. And discovering I have a large audience out there that shares my same passion for old, discarded and forgotten treasures really makes me thrive.
Also on my website, I have a feature called Cottage of the Month, where I feature a new home each month. I’ve been doing it for 4 1/2 years now, and I love the fact that it inspires others.
2. Your decorative style is unique and classy, a hybrid of few distinct styles and finished off with your own added twist. In your opinion, what is it about your decor and style that make your items so timeless?
For me, design begins with a neutral background. It gives you a clean foundation to build on, an empty slate. Then bring in pops of your favorite color for interest, and pull in contrast for balance.
It’s so easy to get swept up with trends, so I try my best to keep my foundation pieces both classic and traditional, like my white slip-covered sofa for example. I’ve had it for 12 years, and to keep it fresh I simply switch out my throw pillows every couple years. Right now I’m into burlap and anything apple green or chartreuse, so I indulge with my accessories, which are easy to switch out as my taste changes.
As another example, in our kitchen we knocked out all the old cabinets, pulled out the old appliances, ripped out all the old tile counter tops and redid the entire space from scratch. I chose a white subway tile back splash and butcher block counter tops, as they are timeless and classic. Regardless of current trends that may come and go, I strongly feel they will hold their own.
3. We’ve featured lots of bloggers who love to find treasure in others’ trash, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do it quite like you can. Do you have any formal training, or is this something you just have a natural knack for?
I considered obtaining a formal education in design, but I’ve never been a good student. I’m a little too free-spirited to be contained to the four walls of a classroom. I think I’m more of an observer of life, and an admirer of the beautiful and curious things that surround me. I’m inspired on a daily basis, and I feel it comes out in my ideas and design.
4. Yours is a success story that’s inspiring to hear. You had the foresight to start your business before most others did, and this gave you a leg up on the competition. Do you believe that your speed to market helped jump start your business long before every Tom, Dick, and Harry had a blog on home decor? And how is the competitive landscape now compared to when you first started out?
I’m not sure it gave me a head start, but it certainly sharpened my technical skills in many different aspects, which is something that I now find invaluable. The internet was a very different landscape back then, and I had to learn to crawl before I could walk. Nowadays, everything is so user friendly, you only need to take a few steps before you’re ready to sprint. While that may not always seem fair, that’s part of the price you pay when you’re a pioneer, taking the road less traveled.
5. I’m sure that at the time, quitting your nanny job to start your decor business seemed like a risky move. Fortunately for you, it paid off. Looking back, do you have any regrets, or would you have done anything differently?
A risky move indeed. I left my full-time job and regular paycheck to pursue my dream of starting my own business on the internet. Fortunately, I had my husband who believed in me and supported me in achieving my goals. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a single thing.
6. During the “new home” craze in places like Las Vegas and rural California about 6 or 7 years ago, there was a demand for all things modern and new, especially in the kitchen. New home developments and excess home equity led to buying sprees on new appliances, new furniture, and new everything. Over the past 10 years, have you seen any fluctuations in the demand for your style of antique decor, or has it always remained pretty constant?
I will admit, sometimes when I watch HGTV, I can’t help but get a little nervous. They are always demolishing the old, and bringing in the new. And a common reaction by new home buyers I’ve noticed – if it’s not stainless steel and granite, no matter how gorgeous the home, the potential buyers can’t seem to head for the hills fast enough.
But at the end of the day, my customers (both my regular buyers and the new ones that just discovered me) are demanding old, unique finds. They love that I scour flea markets and unearth cool junque. They crave things that can’t be found at retail chain stores. From my experience, one of a kind finds are in higher demand than ever before.
7. As a cat owner and home decorating fanatic, I find that the two sometimes don’t mix very well. How do you manage the hair shedding during the summer months, and is there a favorite kitty cat mishap story that you’d like to share (for example, my cat chewed several holes in my new rooster mailbox cover last week)?
My 14 year old orange tabby cats are like my kids. They know where they are allowed, and they’re pretty considerate most days. I have a bonus room which houses most all of my merchandise and routinely gets switched out on a daily basis. This room is separate from the rest of the house, and is a cat-free zone. I do have a story about my cat Skylar that ate one of my husband’s Claritin pills. Needless to say, we don’t leave pills on nightstands any longer.
8. Jennifer, thanks again for sitting down with us today. For this last question, please tell us about when in your life that you first realized you had a strong passion for decorating, and what do you think first caused this passion to come about?
When I moved in with my husband shortly after we became engaged, 14 years ago, that was pretty much when the decorating experimentation began. I love my husband more than life itself, but when I moved into his condo and realized he was using mattresses on his windows as a substitution for curtains, it didn’t take long before I realized that decorating might be the key to our survival.
There’s something to be said about being young, in love, on a handful of pennies budget. I went through this high energy nesting phase, where I wanted to create a fantasy home in our 900 sq ft condo. I painted our linoleum floors, hot glued beadboard to our refrigerator, stenciled a poem on the walls, did a faux finish in the bathroom, built tufted ottomans out of plywood, hung branches above our bed wrapped in twinkle lights, hung pipes and sheer fabric from the ceiling to create a four-poster bed, and built 25 lb. wooden valances and hung them above our windows.
It seemed like no matter how odd or how ridiculous my ideas were, Adam just laughed along with me when some projects didn’t turn out, and celebrated along with me when they did. I loved the way it made me feel, and the pride in doing things on a shoestring budget. The reward in doing something that made people smile, or made them think twice and scratch their heads was the driving force that propelled me.
Yet another great interview! We’ve had some great ones lately, haven’t we? A million thanks to Jennifer Grey for writing such honest and thoughtful answers, and please remember to visit The Old Painted Cottage blog and shop today!